As a boy, I often heard my father say, “Son, there’s no shame in being poor.” I’m not sure why he felt the need to tell me that so often. I never really felt poor growing up. I guess by American middle class standards we were at the low end of the spectrum, but I never felt any shame for not having what others had. When we feel shame it’s because we sense we don’t measure up to the standard around us. Though I didn’t feel shame for being ‘poor’ as a boy like my dad warned me not to, there came a time I did feel shame as an adult. Until then, shame was just a funny word that made me think of Gomer Pyle, the laughable US Marine of TV sitcom fame and his inimitable phrase, “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
What about you? Do you feel any shame for who you are, or what you’ve done in this life? It’s important for us to note that Jesus, in His humanity, never wanted to feel the pain of shame. In verse 1 we hear Him asking the Father to deliver Him from ever feeling shame. Psalm 31 is best understood when we hear it as Jesus’ final prayer from the cross. In fact, the words of verse 5 are the last words of Jesus on the cross, as St. Luke records them…
“Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:46 ESV)
Sometimes we feel shame because we compare ourselves to others and mistakenly perceive them as right or better than us. That sort of shame is unhealthy as it causes us to see ourselves as less than the beautiful child of God we are. However, shame does have a proper role to play in our lives. When we know we’ve sinned, we should feel shame, and it’s that shame that helps turn us toward the One who knew no sin and shame.
When you read Psalm 31, make it your prayer, even as David prophetically prayed in the Spirit of Christ. It is a prayer for deliverance from your enemies (verse 8), and it’s a prayer of lament for your sufferings (verses 9-13). But as you pray through the Psalm, be sure and hear a prayer of assurance also…
“3 Yea, thou art my rock and my fortress; for thy name’s sake lead me and guide me,” (Psalm 31:3)
Our only hope in this world is that in our relationship with Jesus Christ, God hears us. To be in Christ is to have a strong tower to run into in times of trouble. The 16th Century Reformer, Martin Luther, in the midst of suffering and persecution found strength in Jesus as his strong tower. He penned these words in his great hymn of faith, ‘A Mighty Fortress’…
A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.
Jesus is not only our pattern for holy living, He is also our pattern for enduring suffering. If you’re a Christian, you can be certain of suffering at some point in life. St. Paul taught Timothy assurance of such suffering when he said, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12). Yet, the goal of our suffering in Christ should be as Jesus prayed in verse 1, “let me never be put to shame” (Psalm 31:1)
While shame can be a false guilt if it’s from thinking we’re less than what God created us to be, it can also be the result of knowing we’ve sinned, or done wrong; the latter of the two is good. It means we have a conscience and feel the conviction of God’s Spirit for our sin or wrong doing. When we feel that kind of shame we have a refuge we can seek that never fails, a mighty fortress we can run to, a God who loves us and doesn’t condemn us. Our Father is always willing to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all guilt and shame.
As a child and a teenager, I believed in Jesus because of what my parents taught me. But, as an adult there came a day I realized my shame for my sins. I looked in the mirror one day and didn’t see what I’d seen previously. I saw a guilty man who could no longer lean on the confession of what his parents had taught him. I was guilty of sin…many sins. Shame was no longer a funny phrase to me. It was in that shame that I saw the One who hung on a cross for me. I saw how Jesus endured such public shame and humiliation as none other had, and I realized He did it all for me…and for you too, if you’ll receive Him.
image credit: https://memegenerator.net/instance/69480653